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Watchmen (DVD)

Starring: A woolly mask with splodges on it and a man with a very unhealthy blue glow.

Rated: 18.

Story: In an alternate version of the 1980s, a retired superhero is murdered and his old comrades endeavour to track down the killer whilst simultaneously whining about how much they miss the old days.

Comments: I should hate this film. It contains the two things most likely to irritate me in an action movie - angst-ridden superheroes and a narrative that's told in a strange order to make it seem more interesting. Oh, and some excessive gore for the sake of it. Not to mention a plot that promises more than the ending delivers. So it has four things that... No wait, there are some gadgets that might as well be powered by magic in there as well. That makes five things that... Er, did I mention it's half an hour too long? So that's, erm...

Hang on a minute while I go get some red robes and a comfy chair...


Right. That's better. As I was saying, Watchmen has any number of elements that are liable to grate. Happily, however, they're all thrown together which such style and spectacle that it doesn't matter. The characters are somehow sympathetic (despite being mostly crazy) and there's nearly always something interesting happening.

The soundtrack is fantastic, the editing is superb and the mix of time-frames and locations keeps the film visually fresh throughout. It may not be the rip-roaring superhero adventure full of smashing and explosions I've been waiting for but it all makes Spider-Man's recent cinematic moping seem doubly tiresome.

Conclusion: Would you believe it? Telling the story in a jumbled order makes superhero angst bearable.

Explosions: Relatively few.
Vicious brawling: Plenty.
Silly sex scenes: Two or three.
Spectacle: Lots.
Stretched Lycra: Slightly less than is entirely seemly.

Rating: 4/5.


Countdown (DS)

Rated: 3+.

Gameplay: This is based on the long-running quiz show on Channel 4. You play 1-on-1 against a computer opponent to gain the most points. In Letters rounds you have to make the biggest word you can from nine random letters. In Numbers rounds you must use the six numbers provided to get as close as possible to a target number using addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. In the final Conundrum round it's a race to unjumble a nine letter word.

There are 11 Letters rounds, 3 Numbers rounds and a conundrum in a match. Each round has a thirty second time limit.

Save System: You can save and quit after any round.

Comments: Countdown has been going for nearly thirty years. If you live in the UK and have ever visited an elderly relative, then you've probably been forced to watch it at some point. It's an institution.

As such, I don't need to describe what this game is like. Imagine a videogame of Countdown... There we go, you've got the basic gist. Now imagine a much more cheaply produced version... Nope. Cheaper that that... Yep, you've got the idea. This is essentially a picture of a clock bolted to a dictionary and a calculator... except less entertaining or useful.

For the first couple of goes, Countdown is OK, giving a reasonable approximation of the TV show. Unfortunately, the cracks quickly become noticeable:

Tapping on the letters and dragging the numbers is actually a lot slower than writing them down. Since you get no points if time runs out before you're finished, this can be hugely frustrating. Thirty seconds may be the authentic time limit but it's simply not long enough given the limitations of the interface.

The opponent AI is laughable. It knows a huge list of words but has no idea which are common and which are obscure, choosing between them at random. Its 'mistakes' are equally unbelievable. ('CAOLS' instead of 'COALS', for instance.) Beating it on higher difficulties feels more a matter of chance than brilliance.

When the conundrum throws up words like 'CROCOSMIA', there's nothing much to do but sigh. Then again, that's better than figuring out the conundrum but not having time to tap out the answer. One shot, I actually tapped the 'K' of 'SHIPWRECK' only for the clock to run out as the letter was sliding across the screen into position, denying me the points.

Most of these issues are moot in the single-cartridge multiplayer mode. Sadly, a big new one is introduced - you can't play a proper game. Crazily, multiplayer consists of choosing a particular type of round and then playing the best of 3, 5 or 9. There are no points or mixed events. I can only assume this is to cut loading times but, honestly, with the minimal presentation and gameplay, there shouldn't be loading times anyway.

Ho well. At least the clock countdown music is as it should be... until hearing it once a minute drives you insane and you have to switch it off.

Conclusion: Looks and plays like an undergraduate Computer Science project. It's unmistakeably Countdown, though - in an absolute emergency, it might distract an elderly relative long enough for you to escape.

Graphics: Almost non-existent.

Length: Each match only lasts fifteen minutes but winning on the hardest difficulty will take perseverance (and some luck). Sprog1 (aged 9) played it for a couple of hours until it got too hard and he gave up. Not even the promise of in-game medals to collect could entice him back.

Rating: 2/5.


Bop It Extreme 2

Bop It Extreme 2 box.

Cost: £25.

Players: 1 or more.

Age: 8+. Children younger than this can play with it but they don't have much chance of getting far with an actual game.

Game length: Usually under a minute.

Gameplay: The Bop It device issues commands and the player(s) must obey them quickly or be eliminated. Available commands are twist it, pull it, spin it, flick it and bop it. These refer to specific levers and buttons on the device which have to be activated in the stated way.

Different game modes cater for different numbers of players. Solo players can compete for a high score. Two players can play simultaneously, both holding the Bop It at once and taking control of opposite levers. Two or more players can play a passing game where the Bop It demands to be handed to the next person in the circle at random intervals.

The Bop It can be set to issue sound effects rather than voice commands to add extra difficulty.

It has to be said, though, extra difficulty is unlikely to be what you need...

Bop It Extreme 2.

Object: To survive a few games without throwing the Bop It against a wall in frustration and then stamping up and down on the pieces.

Comments: This looks like some arcane torture device redesigned for an age of bright lights and colourful plastic...

...because it is.

It's noisy, frustrating and actually tells you when you're being a bit rubbish. In my case, this is pretty close to all the time because I can't seem to get a score much above 10. Often, I don't even get that. My boys (aged 7 and 9) aren't any better and my daughter (aged 5) loves the look of the thing but doesn't have a hope. Whenever she plays with it, it spends most of the time criticising her.

Multiplayer games tend to be over almost instantly.

If you really want, you can hook it up to a stereo but you're more likely to appreciate the low volume setting. If someone else is playing solo, you can insist they wear headphones.

There's a certain novelty value to the game but it doesn't last long. If the kids are really desperate for it, consider the new Bop It instead - it's supposed to be much easier. Oh, and they can shout at it...

Conclusion: Might be fun if you have coordination and fast reflexes. Like Double P.E. if you don't.

Rating: 2/5.

A Boy and his Blob (Wii)

A boy and his blob.

Rated: 7+.

Story: A blob falls to Earth, searching for help. He finds a young boy and together they set off to defeat the evil Emperor who is terrorising Blobolonia.

This task involves a surprising number of jelly beans.

Gameplay: You control the boy as he explores the 2D platform levels. On his own he can't do much other than make tiny jumps, push small objects and come to a sticky end. Progress requires feeding the blob specific types of jelly bean to transform into useful objects. The available objects include a ladder, anvil, space hopper, giant hamster ball and (improbably) a hole.

The main levels are more about puzzling than quick reflexes. The boy is extremely fragile and guiding him past environmental hazards, dead ends and evil blobs is a case of working out which beans to use, in which order and where to throw them.

Each of the 40 levels has treasure chests hidden within it. Finding all three unlocks one of another 40 bonus challenge levels. These don't have to be completed to finish the game but getting through each one unlocks rewards such as concept art. The challenge levels tend to concentrate on exploring the uses of a single type of bean or on harder platforming.

There are no pointless motion controls. In fact, the game can be played using the Classic controller.

Difficulty: Seven-year-olds should be able to take a crack at it with some help.

Save System: Automatic save at the end of the level only. This can become a bit of an issue on later levels. That said, if you do have to quit halfway for some reason and come back later, making your way through a level is much quicker second time round.


The game only has one saved game slot.

Count it. One.

Whose idea was that? Only one person can play through the game at a time on any given Wii unless they're prepared to share a saved game (which takes away much of the fun of finding the treasure chests).

There's absolutely no reason for this and it's just stupid. The only way around the problem is for every player to have their own SD card and move their saved game onto it after every play session. (Copying isn't enough. The data has to be moved entirely off the Wii and onto the card.) This is a fair amount of hassle, is potentially costly, and has the clear risk of a deletion disaster.

It's insane and worth thinking about carefully if more than one person in your household is going to want to play.

Comments: Sprog2 (aged 7) took one look at the box of this game and jumped up and down in excitement. He instantly loved the blob. I think he wants one of his own...

The game is initially a bit confusing, thanks to a lack of menus and tutorials. There's a short cut-scene and then you're pretty much left to your own devices. You have to work out the controls and mechanics for yourself. This adds to the haunting atmosphere but isn't entirely helpful. Fortunately, the graphics are deeply endearing, maintaining interest until the basic concepts have established themselves and the puzzles becoming absorbing in their own right. Watching the boy hug the blob is enough to make even the toughest housedad go, 'Aaaahhhhh...'

A boy and his blob hugging.

The first few levels are pretty easy, with lots of signposts showing which beans to use. These gradually peter out, though, and the treasure chests become better hidden, causing the game to require much more thought. Despite only having access to a maximum of eight types of bean in any given level, there are still often multiple ways to negotiate obstacles. It's easy to end up trying some convoluted series transformations, only to suddenly realise there's a much simpler solution. Controlling some of the blob's forms can be a trifle fiddly but the actual puzzling is a joy.

Collecting all the treasure chests quickly becomes obsessive (particularly for children) and greatly adds to the longevity of the game. There's an excellent balance of exploration, problem-solving and platforming. The numerous checkpoints, infinite lives and endless jelly beans help avoid frustration but the clever puzzles ensure the game maintains a steadily increasing challenge. Besides, although there's no great penalty for dying, the hand-drawn animation ensures a little pang of guilt every time you carelessly guide the boy to his doom (especially whenever the blob is close at hand to mope).

With heart-warming graphics and intuitive but complex gameplay, A Boy and his Blob is fun, challenging and charming.

When it comes right down to it, I want my own blob, too...

Conclusion: Essential... as long as you have enough memory cards to go round.

Graphics: Touching and beautiful. Imagine what a game based on Laura's Star would look like.

Length: Medium (if you make sure to collect everything).

Rating: 5/5 if you don't have to share it with anyone (or you simply don't tell them about it).


How to improve your credit rating

(Information supplied by Aquacard and checked by HBOS. Correct as of December 2009.)

If you are a homemaker with a low or irregular income, it can sometimes be difficult to obtain credit, such as a mortgage, a loan or a credit card. Even if you have been saving every penny or have always been good with money - your credit rating could still be poor. This may be because lenders don't have enough positive credit history to go on and therefore class you as high risk, making them reluctant to lend to you. Luckily, there are a number of easy steps you can take to improve your credit rating and start borrowing at favourable rates. Whether you are being turned down for credit now, think you may need it in the future or don't know what a credit rating is, read this credit-boosting guide and take your first step towards financial freedom.

How credit rating works

When you apply for credit with a company, it will (with your consent) check your credit score through a credit reference agency of which the three main ones are Experian, Equifax and Call Credit. These companies hold your credit report, which includes details of the electoral roll (a list of the names of all people registered at an address who are entitled to vote), County Court Judgments or CCJ's (a ruling for an unpaid debt issued by a County Court), bankruptcies, your current and past credit commitments and they also show if you have missed or defaulted on any payments over the last six years. As your credit report shows how you have repaid credit in the past, lenders will take it as an indication of how you will repay credit in the future.

The better your credit history, the wider the range of credit products you'll have access to and the better the rates. A poor credit history will limit your choice and usually means you'll have to borrow at higher rates, but your credit history can be improved over time.

Understanding the problem

There are two reasons why your credit rating might be poor:

1. You have little or no credit history.
If you are in this situation, you might be recently divorced or a homemaker, who is or has been, wholly or partially, financially dependent on your partner. You might also be someone who has not applied for much credit in the past, such as credit cards, mortgages, loans, etc ...

Ironically, this high-risk category also includes people who have always paid their bills on time and have been financially independent enough in the past to not need any credit.

2. You have a credit history, but it is poor.
Many lenders like to see proof of a regular income, though the importance of this differs for each lender. Therefore, if you are a homemaker, part-time worker, temporarily unemployed, self-employed or have an irregular income, you might find it hard to obtain credit.

You might also be affected by previously bad credit, due to late payments, bills in arrears, County Court Judgments (CCJ's), bankruptcy or Individual Voluntary Arrangements (IVA's - a contractual arrangement with a creditor to avoid bankruptcy).

Another reason you might find yourself in this situation is if your partner or ex-partner has a bad credit rating and is or was linked to you financially (e.g. joint accounts), which means this will affect your rating too. Therefore, if you split up with someone you have joint finances with, it may help your credit rating if you separate your accounts as soon as possible - you can also write to the credit reference agencies and ask for a notice of 'disassociation'.

Ten Easy steps you can take towards financial freedom

Step one: Register on the electoral roll
Many companies use the electoral roll for verification purposes in order to combat identity fraud. To register on the electoral roll you will generally need to complete a voter registration form and return it to your local authority. It is vital you do this every time you move house. Visit the local government website to find out more.

Step two: Stop applying for credit you won't get
You may not be aware of this, but every time you apply for credit the ensuing credit search is noted on your credit report. If you have applied and been rejected several times, your credit history may be getting worse and worse. Therefore, stop applying and check your credit rating first so you can start to improve it and avoid getting rejected again.

Step three: Check your credit report
This will show you the areas that you can improve on and also means you can check for any errors that might be on your report and get them changed. Even a simple mistake such as a wrong present or past address can lead to you being judged on someone else's credit history. If you do spot a mistake, just write to the agency you obtained your report from and request it's changed.

You may be able to obtain a copy of your credit report for free from Credit Expert, click here for more information.

Step four: Create some positive credit history
1. Open a higher interest credit card for which you are more likely to be accepted. Make sure you manage it properly to help rebuild your credit rating. This means repaying every month in full, spending a little each month for six to twelve months. For most credit cards, this method will only work if you just use your credit card for purchases. It is important to make sure you make your payments on time and stay within your credit limit or otherwise it will have a negative effect on your credit rating.

Here are some examples of higher interest credit cards that can be used to repair bad credit:

- aqua Card: Typical 35.9% APR variable
- Vanquis: Typical 39.9% APR variable
- Monument Visa Card: Typical 34.9% APR variable

2. Put bills in your name (where possible) and pay them by direct debit.

3. Open a couple of store cards as these are usually also easier to get than standard rate credit cards, but ALWAYS pay them off in full every month and you've got another way to show you can handle your finances responsibly. Don't use this method if you are bad at managing your finances as missing payments on store cards may have a negative impact on your credit rating, the opposite of what you're trying to achieve by using them.

Step five: Pay your bills by direct debit
This ensures you can't forget to make your payments on time, which is important because every missed payment will show up on your credit report and have a negative impact on your credit rating. However, make sure you always have enough funds in the account you have set up the direct debit for, as letting that account go into unarranged overdraft when your direct debit is paid out will have the opposite effect on your credit rating!

Step six: Close down old accounts and cards
Having too much credit available to you may have a negative impact on your credit rating and lenders look at the total amount available to you, not just what you owe. To avoid this, close any cards or accounts that you are no longer using and only leave open the active ones.

Step seven: Dealing with County Court Judgments (CCJ's)
This will only apply to those who have had one or more CCJ's registered against them. If this is the case and you paid the amount in full within 28 days of the claim being made, then the judgment will have been cancelled and shouldn't appear on your credit record. Alternatively, if you paid the full amount at a later date, you should obtain a letter of confirmation from whoever filed the judgment and deliver it to the County Court. Once the Court has verified the debt has been paid in full, you can ask them to issue you with a certificate of satisfaction or cancellation, which will involve a court fee. Your record will then show the debt as satisfied and this will remain there for a period of 6 calendar years after the judgment order.

Step eight: Notice of Correction
You can add a Notice of Correction to your report to highlight any mistakes you have found, but that a credit agency has refused to amend. Another application of this is to indicate a reason for getting behind on payments due to a change of circumstance in your life, such as divorce or redundancy.

Having a Notice of Correction on your report means your application for credit may take longer as the lender will be obliged under the Guide to Credit Scoring to read any Notices of Correction. Therefore, think carefully before you request to have one added to your report.

Step nine: Curb your card spending
This is the most obvious step of all, try to minimise any debt on your cards. As a rule of thumb, you should try to keep the debt on a card under 30% of your credit limit.

Step ten: Time your applications wisely
Applying for lots of credit in a short space of time and being rejected is not good for your credit rating. You can try leaving between 3 and 6 months between applications to help repair your credit rating, but it may take longer. Things such as mobile phone contracts and car insurance can also count towards this.

Hasbro Family Game Night Vol. 2 (Wii)

Rated: 3+.

Gameplay: This is a collection of virtual versions of five well-known family games: Operation, Jenga, Bop It, Pictureka and Connect 4x4. Each game can be played in a manner approximating the real world format or in a 'remixed' interpretation with aspects only possible in a computer game.
  • Operation - Extract unlikely items from a patient by quickly and carefully pointing and twisting the wiimote. The remixed version includes additional stages, such as scrubbing wounds.
  • Jenga - Use flicks of the wiimote to pull blocks out of a tower without it falling down. Extra features include bomb blocks which must be removed quickly before they explode.
  • Bop It - Press buttons and shake the wiimote as instructed without messing up.
  • Pictureka - Hunt through a jumbled mass of doodles to look for specific pictures or a set number of a certain type of item. Remix makes things harder, giving only the silhouette or the sound of what you're looking for.
  • Connect 4x4 - In Connect 4, two players take it in turns to drop discs of their own colour into a vertical grid, attempting to get four in a row in any direction. Connect 4x4 requires four players and uses three different kinds of counter: rings, discs and double-thickness blockers. The grid is two counters deep, with rings going down one side, discs the other and blockers both at once. This means that each position in the grid can have a ring of one colour and a disc of another, leading to all kinds of strategic complications.
Each game has options for varying the difficulty and winning conditions.

Solo players can play against the computer or take on the High Score Challenge in a selection of mini-games based on the five main games. With multiple players, a Family Game Show is available. In this, success in mini-games brings extra lives for a final challenge which decides the ultimate winner.

The whole package is presented by Mr or Mrs Potato Head. Doing well in specific challenges wins new accessories to dress them up.

Difficulty: Children under seven may struggle with the fine movement required to play everything other than Connect 4x4 and Bop It. Bop It will have even adults pulling out their hair in exasperation.

Save System: Progress and rewards are associated with Miis rather than actual save game slots. When a player wins a reward, it is automatically saved for use with the Mii they're playing with at the time.

Comments: At first glance, turning board games into computer games seems crazy. The main point of board games is to get families away from the TV and sitting round a table together. Also, much of the fun of board games is in being able to touch and feel. Counting the money in Monopoly might be a pain but the whole reason for playing is the prospect of being able to wave a huge wadge of notes at your opponents. Even with the waggling options presented by a wiimote, that kind of thing is hard to replicate.

On closer inspection, however, there are a few possible advantages to board game conversions:
  • An entire shelf of entertainment can be squeezed onto one disc. (Which, believe me, is becoming more of an attraction all the time as the kids get older and my house is filled with Gogo's and LEGO.)
  • The computer can make up the numbers when extra players are needed.
  • Laborious set up is avoided. (Good news if you've ever attempted Jenga with a child and spent more time stacking than playing.)
  • Cheating is much more difficult.
  • The computer can keep track of the score.
  • The game can be expanded in new ways.
  • It's impossible to lose pieces down the back of the sofa.
The version of Connect 4x4 in Family Game Night 2 is a nearly perfect example of when such a conversion goes right. With the remix adding interesting power ups, it ticks every item on the list. As long as you go for a set number of points to win, rather than a time limit, the computerised edition surpasses the real game.

Pictureka, meanwhile, gains and loses in equal measure. The Wii can shuffle the doodles around in a way impossible with a 'proper' copy of the game and it can also fairly judge who found an item first. Control is somewhat fiddly and frustrating, though.

Things start to fall apart after that. Operation, Bop It and Jenga are very tactile games. Much of their appeal is lost in translation. Using the wiimote to approximate the normal lever-pulling actions in Bop It brings a level of abstraction that takes away any fun. It's simply hard work. Without physical feedback, Jenga becomes more luck than judgement. Operation, at least, has been sensibly stylised to make it more suited to life on the Wii but unfortunately this means it doesn't actually feel that much like Operation.

Happily, these problems are less of an issue in the bite-sized mini-games, meaning the Family Game Show is still playable. Nonetheless, most players seem to opt for Connect 4x4 whenever possible. Despite being the hardest of the five games to explain, it's easiest to pick up and play. It's also much less of a lottery than the others, particularly for newbies. (Jenga and Bop It are impossible without practice.)

All in all, the selection of games isn't what it should be. That said, there's still fun to be had. Children obsess over collecting parts for Mr Potato Head and the Game Show is organised so that everyone stays in with a chance until the end.

It's just a shame about Bop It...

Conclusion: A mixed bag but worth considering for Connect 4x4 alone.

Graphics: Perfectly adequate for the task in hand.

Length: Solo play isn't going to hold anyone's attention long but the multiplayer can keep kids entertained for days. Connect 4x4 is the only game with really lasting appeal, though.

Rating: 3/5.


Planet of the Apes (2001)

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Helena Bonham-Carter and Tim Roth.

Rated: 12.

Story: An astronaut ventures too far into a temporal storm and crash lands on a planet where the apes are in charge and humans are kept as slaves. He attempts to phone home but ends up leading a rebellion instead.

Comments: With the postal strikes disrupting my film rentals, I decided it was time to delve around at the bottom of the hard-drive recorder and rediscover whatever was lurking there...

Along with some repeats of Top Gear, fifty-seven episodes of Pokémon and an inexplicable recording of Hole in the Wall, I found the 2001 remake of Planet of the Apes. I've been meaning to watch it for years but never entirely dared. I have fond memories of staying up late to see the original when I was a teenager and being blown away by the ending. The possibility of a new version being as good seemed remote. Nonetheless, devoid of other entertainment which I hadn't seen before and which didn't involve celebrities attempting to squeeze themselves through narrow gaps, I faced my fear and settled down to watch Helena Bonham-Carter in a chimpanzee suit...

I should probably have watched Top Gear again.

Although Planet of the Apes (2001) has its moments, it's generally a clunky mess. The first half is rather slow going in places with apes frequently arguing over the treatment of humans. This is thinly-veiled commentary on civil and animal rights in our own society but the two get a little mixed and the whole thing comes across as both moralising and shallow. (It also ignores the fact that the various different species of ape live and work together quite happily without batting an eyelid.) The pace picks up in the latter stages but it all inevitably leads to a big CGI battle and a final showdown between psycho ape (Roth) and hero human (Wahlberg).

The make-up and costumes are great, at least, and the actors do a good job of mimicking simian movements. Some dubious wire-work breaks the spell, however, as does the appearance of an actual chimpanzee - the men in costumes suddenly look like just that.

Mark Wahlberg is never convincing. To be fair, the plot and script don't help him out but he fails to convey the trauma of finding himself in such an upside-down world. The rest of the cast do OK, though.

There are a few references to the original but these are amongst the low points of the movie. Charlton Heston's cameo verges on farce and the sets in the ape city look like they've been lifted from 1960s Star Trek. Special mention has to go to the ending, which is beyond stupid. Clearly the makers wanted to come up with something to bring shock and surprise in a similar manner to the earlier version. It's certainly surprising but, unfortunately, there is no way for it to convincingly make sense. You'll remember it but for all the wrong reasons. I kind of wish I'd dozed off before reaching it and dreamt of Jeremy Clarkson in a silver jumpsuit being shoved into a swimming pool by an oncoming barrier of polystyrene.

Conclusion: You could probably make a more entertaining remake with the kids' cuddly toys and an Action Man. Planet of the Teletubbies, now there's an idea...

Explosions: A couple (and a few burning tents).
Apes: Loads.
Holes in the plot: Big enough to fit a considerable number of celebrities through.
Better than the original?: Not a chance.
Better than repeats of Top Gear?: Not really.
Better than watching a comedian, a rugby player and a weather girl get knocked into a swimming pool by a perforated wall?: Probably not...

Rating: 2/5.


Doh Nutters

Doh Nutters game box.

Cost: £18.

  • 4 elephant masks with adjustable straps.
  • 12 plastic doughnuts in four different colours.
  • Playing board.
Gameplay: Players each wear a mask, bend over the board and then simultaneously race to pick up the doughnuts of their colour using only their trunk.

Doh Nutters game contents.

Object: The first person to get all three doughnuts on their trunk at the same time is the winner.

Game length: Potentially forever unless someone cheats. (Sober adults can win in under thirty seconds, however.)

Number of players: 2-4.

Age: 4+ officially but no one under eight will be able to win and no one over seven will want to play (unless they're a lot over seven and drunk).

Comments: I quite frequently decide to write a brilliant and witty review recommending a fantastic toy or game, only to discover the thing isn't made anymore. Did you know the Dungeons and Dragons board game is actually pretty excellent, for instance? So is Pokémon Yahtzee Jr. Better than that, Duplo did a wonderful train set about ten years ago. Oh and, believe it or not, the Cinderella Glass Slipper Game is surprisingly not awful. Good luck finding any of them outside eBay, though - thanks to changing fads and low marketing budgets, decent products fall by the wayside all the time.

Conversely, I'm occasionally stunned to discover absolute tat still going strong. Whoever is buying the Golden Coin Maker please stop. Even some of the classics, like Monopoly and Mouse Trap, aren't much fun. Still, when I saw a TV advert for Doh Nutters the other day, I couldn't quite believe it.

It's dreadful. The production moulds should have been destroyed years ago.

For a start, the masks are uncomfortable. Children are forever taking them off and then wanting help putting them back on again. Not that there's much point - it's almost impossible for an under-five to pick up one ring, let alone a second one without the first one falling off again.

Nonetheless, young children tend to imagine the game is going to be loads of fun. On seeing the box, they will cry in frustration if they don't get to play. Unfortunately, if they do get to play, they'll cry in frustration because they can't manage it. This is something of a lose-lose situation. Children old enough to have any chance of success, meanwhile, won't be too thrilled at the prospect of looking like a comedy elephant.

After five minutes, the only one left still wearing a mask will be you as you're forced to perform tricks with plastic doughnuts for the amusement/embarrassment of your assembled offspring and their friends. They probably won't even give you peanuts.

Conclusion: Avoid if humanly possible. Its continued production is astonishing.

  • Looks like it should be fun.
  • Might actually be fun (briefly) if you're drunk and a student.
  • The masks ensure that everyone has a certain level of eye protection.
  • Too tricky for young children.
  • Can't be played while wearing glasses.
  • Bound to eventually involve you kneeling on the floor, disguised as an elephant and quietly swearing to yourself.
  • Will all end in tears.
Rating: 1/5.